Alex Salmond offered a junior reporter some sweets in a patronising stunt. Photo: Getty
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Alex Salmond labelled a "bully" as he offers a junior reporter some sweets

The Telegraph reveals Scotland's First Minister's literal sweet revenge on a young reporter asking difficult questions about an independent Scotland's future currency.

The Telegraph is running a piece about Alex Salmond being a "bully behind the mask", because of the way he treated a junior reporter asking him tricky questions about what the currency situation would be for an independent Scotland.

At a press conference, Scotland's First Minister announced in front of the press pack that he had promised to give 27-year-old Ben Riley-Smith, a Scottish political reporter at the Telegraph, some sweets. He handed him some Liquorice Allsorts, to which Riley-Smith reacted by saying, "and you don't think it's condescending at all to give sweets to a junior reporter?", and handing the sweets back. 

But that wasn't the end of Salmond's patronising stunt. Here's an extract from the article about what happened next:

After the question and answer session ended, Salmond again presented Riley-Smith with the sweets and said: “[Got] a wee fancy for Jelly Babies, son?, to which Riley- Smith said: "It just seems a bit patronising First Minister, doesn't it?"

First Minister: "That's OK, I'm perfectly happy to patronise you, Ben. [Laughs.] There's no harm meant."

Riley-Smith handed back the pack of sweets: "I just think it's a bit patronising, given I'm just trying to be professional."

First Minister: "You mustn't get irritable."

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.